History and Culture of the Ancient Near East

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    History and Culture of the Ancient Near East

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study


  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    Course Objective

    This course aims to:

    • introduce students to the study of the ancient Near East using methodologies developed in archaeology and Assyriology
    • survey the major periods of Mesopotamian history by examining artifacts that have survived in the material record, key episodes and interpretive models proposed by modern scholars
    • teach students how to make well-grounded arguments based on the interpretation of ancient texts and artifacts
    • encourage students to reflect critically on how historians reconstruct the ancient past by using diverse types of evidence

    Course Content

    Ancient Mesopotamia was the birthplace of some of the most important developments in human history. The first cities and empires, the earliest writings, the origins of mathematics, chemistry and astronomy: many of the ideas and worldviews that have shaped western civilization have their roots in the ancient Near East, and more particularly, in Mesopotamia. This course explores the cultures of present-day Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran from the Neolithic (ca. 10,000 BCE) to the end of the Achaemenid period (ca. 330 BCE). Students will learn about the rich history of this region through its literature, its art and its architecture. Topics to be covered include: early complex societies, state formation and political organization, religion, ethnicity, trade, diplomacy and warfare, family life, the position of women in society and crafts.

    Additional Information Teaching Methods

    Lectures, given twice a week. If the course is given online, some classes may be provided as pre-recorded lectures. Attendance i mandatory.

    Method of Assessment

    Written exam.

    Students following the Ancient Near East track and who have already taken Elementary Akkadian 1 and 2, will complete a selection of short translation exercises (30% of grade) in addition to the final exam (70% of grade).

    The resit regulations regarding the assignments are specified in the study manual.


    Course textbook: van de Mieroop, Marc. 2016. A History of the Ancient Near East, ca. 3000–323 BC (3rd ed.). Chichester UK; Malden MA.

    Additional literature and study material will be provided via Canvas.

    Additional Information Target Audience

    • BA2 students of Ancient Studies with specialisation Ancient History;
    • BA2 students of Ancient Studies with specialisation Ancient Near Eastern Studies;
    • Other interested students can take the course as an elective.

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Some courses may require additional fees.


This site uses cookies to store information on your computer. Some are essential to make our site work; others help us improve the user experience. By using the site, you consent to the placement of these cookies.

Read our Privacy Policy to learn more.